Meeting Fellow Chronic Illness Warriors
I had a recent experience that I wanted to share with everyone in this community. My aim is to showcase the importance of community when it comes to having a chronic illness.
Fellow chronic illness warriors
As I was waiting for my new work computer last week, I had the opportunity to meet someone who had a chronic illness at my job who I had never met before. The whole reason the discussion came up was that she had some shaking/spasms in her arm, and she repeatedly apologized to me about it, which, of course, I was like, "you don't need to apologize at all, no worries."
She then explained what her condition was--which, for the sake of privacy, I won't reveal here--and from there, I explained my situation with RA and lupus in a vein of saying "hey, I hear you and I'm here to support. I don't understand your exact situation, but I do understand what it's like to live with a chronic illness every day." The look on her face was astounding: she was so relieved and shocked that someone else understood that a chronic illness impacts every facet of life and the human experience.
Connecting over our differences
The thing that struck me the most was how, despite the difference in our conditions, we could still connect with each other. She mentioned that apparently, in interacting with other people outside of the workplace, she would notice they would stare at her and wouldn't even quit when she made it clear that she saw they were staring. This would affect anyone, but for those of us with a chronic illness, it just adds fuel to an already rolling fire within us that recognizes that we are different.
I can relate to this in my experience in a somewhat limited purview. When I was first diagnosed with RA, I had a limp in my left hip and my left elbow was very bent. When I would walk anywhere doing errands or just for exercise, people would stare at me, too, probably wondering, "why is this 21-year-old walking with a limp? What happened to him?" One person asked me if I had been in the Army and had experienced a war injury since I was limping. I am not kidding. This demonstrates the impossible nature of considering that someone as young as I was could have a chronic illness.
We are stronger together
Returning to the individual at my work, we connected wonderfully and were able to support each other in ways that someone who does not have a chronic illness could not do. The point here is that those of us with chronic illnesses with physical manifestations are subject to a barrage of inquiries and silent judgments from those around us without chronic illnesses. But, when people with chronic illnesses come together, we can empower, support, and lift each other up in a world that isn't made for us to live in harmony.
What lifestyle changes have you found to be most helpful in managing your RA?
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